2009 American Le Mans Series LMP1 champions Patron Highcroft Racing are heading to France this June. The team's season championship has earned it an invitation from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) to compete at the 24 hours of Le Mans. With the changes to the ALMS class structure this year, the P1 Acura ARX-02a has been shelved in favor of an updated version of the former P2 winning ARX-01c.
The Highcroft team will be packing up 01c for the trip to France, the first time any of the Acura prototypes has run in Europe. This will also be Highcroft's first trip to the round-the-clock classic. Highcroft was eligible to run in P1 with the ARX-02, but under current ACO technical rules, it is very difficult for a gas powered car to compete with the diesel Audis and Peugeots.
At this point Highcroft is the only Acura entry for the 2010 ALMS season. Fernandez racing closed up at the end of the 2009 season due to a lack of funding and De Ferran moved to Indy cars. UK based Strakka Racing will become the first European team to partner with Acura running a second ARX-01c in the P2 class at Le Mans and throughout the 2010 Le Mans Series season.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
[Source: American Le Mans Series]
HIGHCROFT RACING SELECTED TO RACE IN LE MANS 24 HOURS
Reigning American Le Mans Series LMP1 champions Highcroft Racing will race in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans after being announced this morning as one of the 55 teams selected to contest the French endurance classic.
Highcroft Racing's David Brabham - the winner of last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans with Peugeot - was in attendance at the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) press conference this morning in France.
The Danbury, CT-based team will take its 2010 American Le Mans Series entry, the Honda Performance Development factory-backed ARX-01c chassis to contest the LMP2 class at Le Mans on June 12-13.
"Getting an entry for Le Mans is extremely satisfying," Dayton said.
"It has been a goal of ours since the creation of Highcroft Racing - preceding our relationships with both HPD and Patrón, winning our first race or even the championship.
"This is something we have wanted to do for a long time and we are delighted and thankful for the opportunity and very proud of the fact we are invited to France.
"Our goal has always been to establish Highcroft as a leading international motorsports organization - to do that, being at Le Mans is essential."
Brabham has played an integral role in the development of the Highcroft squad since his debut as part of the Acura factory program in 2007.
He will defend his ALMS crown in 2010 teamed with Frenchman, Simon Pagenaud who last season took three poles, five race victories and six fastest laps while fighting against Highcroft. Marino Franchitti fills the third driver role for the team in long-distance races after scoring three pole positions, three fastest race laps and 10 podiums from 10 LMP2 class races last season.
"For the reigning American Le Mans Series champions to go to Le Mans with the reigning winner of the 24 Hours is a remarkable opportunity," Dayton said.
"We have long-standing and highly successful relationship with David and frankly, I can't imagine going to Le Mans without him.
"He has been an integral part of our program since the beginning of Highcroft Racing and his breadth and depth of knowledge at Le Mans will be so important for us.
"He has experience and a winning pedigree both in prototypes and GT cars at Le Mans - you couldn't pick a better man to lead your team at the 24 Hours for the first time."
Highcroft Racing is one of nine cars selected to contest the LMP2 class at Le Mans. The team will do battle against another HPD ARX-01c of Engalnd's Strakka Racing as well as two Pescarolo-Judds, two Ginetta-Zyteks, a WR-Zytek, a Lola-Judd and a HPD-powered Lola coupe.
"Even though we earned an LMP1 entry after winning in the ALMS last year, given the fact that a petrol-powered car really can't compete against the diesels at Le Mans, it really made sense for us take our current chassis and contest LMP2," Dayton said.
"This will be our first flyaway race, our first time in Europe and our first time at Le Mans so we do have a lot to learn.
"We're not under any false pretences regarding the size of the challenge ahead. Tackling an LMP1 victory at Le Mans was really not realistic for us this year, but we're very keen to challenge for the LMP2 win.
"We are going to have to earn it, work very hard and be a quick study because most of the competitors we will be fighting with have been there before.
"While our drivers have been to Le Mans and I've raced there four times, only a handful of our crew guys have done the race so we will be on a steep learning curve."
While the team competes in the American Le Mans Series as Patrón Highcroft Racing, advertising laws in France will not permit the team to display its regular colors.
"We're going to be headed to France with new colors in June," Dayton said.
"We would have loved to fly the Patrón flag in the biggest endurance race in the world, but we now have a great opportunity to introduce new marketing partners to a massive international audience."